Monday, January 20, 2014

Remembering (unedited)

It has been a long time since I have sat down to write.  I've wanted to, I've been thinking about it, but couldn't figure out exactly what to write.  Here we are, in 2014, starting our third year without Polly.  We've been through 2 rounds of "Polly dates" and also 3 holiday seasons without her.  Has it been that long?  It seems like only yesterday, we were getting ready for her arrival.  Thinking that the only thing we would have to worry about would be if we knew how to buckle her in the carseat.  I remember having Whit put the carseat in my car a few weeks before. I remember driving around town and I would glance back at it, imaging it holding our sweet Polly.  Wondering what it would be like to have a little passenger heading to the store with me.  I can effortlessly take myself back to those days and then to the days we were in the NICU.  The days that were both blessings and the worst of our lives all wrapped together.  I still struggle with the question "why?".  Why our baby?  What did I do wrong?  Was it the time I slipped on the steps at 12 weeks?  Or the time I was around second-hand smoke?  I asked our nurses how and why, they always assured me it was not my fault.  Your job as a mother, and as a parent, is to instinctively protect your children, something I had already failed at.  Despite the heartache, stress, lack of sleep, recovering from delivery, and all the emotions coursing through me, I would go back in a heartbeat to see Polly again.  To rub her tiny back, something that the nurses said she loved.  To read stories to her over and over.  To hold her on that wonderful day that a nurse gave me the chance to cuddle for hours.  I will never forget it.  Still, as time goes on, I do struggle daily with my broken heart.  Yes, Blakely has been such a blessing.  A true rainbow for us and brings us smiles every day.  But my heart aches to get to hold her sister too.  I wish she could know her sister here.  I also struggle with how society puts a limit on grieving.  Please know and don't ever doubt that I am not over this.  You are never over the death of your child.  But I can tell many are used to our story.  The sensitivity that was there in the early weeks and months has lessened.  The world keeps turning, other life experiences happen, and most don't realize what it is like to go on living without our precious child.  The ones who changed your life forever.  You can't go back to who you were, you can't figure out who you are becoming.  Each day is a test, a struggle, to find a new type of normal.  I still feel anxious when meeting new people.  Will they ask the same question of "how many children do you have"?  And how do you answer?  Is it worth it to tell them the truth?  Will they understand?  Will they become uncomfortable?  I have 2 children, not 1 and that is the truth.  That is the honest truth.  I brought 2 beautiful girls into this world, but God needed one of them much too soon.  Polly is a part of our family too. 

The day Polly became an angel will forever be etched in my mind.  I can't look at November 11th, or even that entire month, and not feel an overwhelming sense of sadness.  The night before, we got some terrible news from the neurologist.  She said she hoped for better news for us, but for now they were not expecting her to wake up.  I remember not believing her.  I thought she just didn't know how strong my girl really is, that Polly would show her.  She had handled 2 ECMO machines almost the max amount of time and succeeded in coming off of them.  She had tolerated me holding her for hours, singing to her, and even having sponge baths.  She had used been on both types of ventilators.  She was a fighter.   I remember going to eat that night, just Whit and I since our family had left.  It was the first time we were really alone.  He thought the same too, we had heard bad news before, Polly did the incredible of coming off ECMO, she can beat this too.  I remember going to sleep, dreaming of bringing her home.

The next morning, we awoke to our phone going off.   It was a nervous nurse telling us we needed to get to the hospital.  I remember seeing it was 7:30am and knowing that this is right in the middle of the time the nurses changed shifts.  Why would they be calling now?  We couldn't even call in to check on the babies then because of the change over.  I remember starting to panic as it started to sink in what might be happening.  Please God, not us, not our baby girl!  She is our life!  I remember sobbing as Whit frantically drove to the hospital.  We were only a few miles away but it took an eternity.  I remember the phone ringing again, this time asking if we were close and telling us to not scrub up, to come in immediately.  I remember how it felt to hear those words, this was serious, this was it.  We couldn't get there fast enough.  I remember screaming at Whit as he got off the phone through sobs asking if she was gone.  She wasn't, but what we didn't know at the time is they had just revived her for a second time.  It was getting worse.

I remember being dropped off at the closest door so one of us could get to her as quickly as possible.  I remember running into the elevator which was filled with doctors and nurses, holding their coffees, ready to start their day.  One lady in particular looked at me and she just knew.  I saw sympathy in her eyes as I sobbed and trembled all over.  She knew that look in a mothers eye, I didn't even have to say anything.  I remember running, literally running, into the NICU.  I remember seeing Polly's room, filled with doctors and NICU staff.  All watching and starring at the monitor.  I don't even know how he said it, but I remember hearing the words from that doctor that she would not make it.  I remember Whit running in and me sobbing and rocking myself in the chair next to Polly.  All the while seeing numbers on her stats that we had never seen before and seeing the support of the machines at their max.  There was nothing else they could do.  I remember our sweet ECMO nurse Carmen, who we hadn't seen in almost 2 weeks, having a hunch and coming to visit Polly that morning.  I looked up and she was running to me, arms stretched and let me cry on her shoulder.  I remember how helpless it felt to sit and wait, to know we would have to make a decision no parent wants to make.  I remember calling first my mom and then my in-laws to tell them the news.  I didn't even have the words to convey what was happening.  I couldn't tell them she will die, it just isn't in a mother's vocabulary.  I remember Whit, tears-streaming, stepping out of the room to make a phone call and minutes later the hospital pastor came in to ask if he could baptize Polly.  This was not how I envisioned such an important life moment for her.  I remember watching him gently cup his hands in her room sink, blessing the water, and baptizing Polly, all while we watched at her bedside.  It was such a peaceful moment, despite the circumstances.  I remember feeling grateful for him.  I will never forget the hours of holding her, snuggling her in the blanket a dear friend had sent her that was blessed by his church.  I remember the staff taking pictures for us, although we never asked and at the time I was confused as to why.  Those pictures we cherish now, they are our special pictures.

I remember two very special doctors being there for us when they didn't have to be, one was not even working that day.  I remember them hugging us and telling us we are good parents and that turning off life support is a christian decision.  I remember them telling us she was not in any pain.  I remember the many nurses coming in one at a time to say goodbye, to hug us, and to say they were sorry.  I remember the nurse who was watching her that morning crying to me and apologizing, she didn't know what happened, and I told her it wasn't her fault.  I remember knowing the time was coming and watching these two doctors, the pastor, and several of Polly's nurses and fellows holding hands around us and praying for Polly.   I remember when they turned off the machine and she was gone in an instant.  I remember how silent the room was without any monitors beeping, any machines running, only silence.  I remember when the doctor said she was gone and the sobs and cries that came out of us.  It was unrecognizable.  I remember how different Polly felt without being attached to wires.  We got to change her diaper, bath her, make her footprints and handprints in clay, and dress her in a special christening gown that one of the doctors had given her.  One only for special babies she said.  I remember Carmen asking if she could hold her and how touched I was by that.  I remember us crying over her little fingers and toes, her perfect tiny body that was half Whit and half me.

Then I remember it was time to go, but we couldn't leave her.  I remember Whit insisting on carrying her.  We were escorted by Carmen and the pastor through the back of hospital, out of plain site.  I remember the workers stopping what they were doing and solemnly watching, knowing why we were there.  I remember thinking we were walking so very fast, I didn't want to go so fast.  The thought crossed my mind of grabbing my baby and running away with her.  I remember when we reached the door and Carmen turning around telling us she would take her.  I remember kissing her a million times and wanting to do so a million more, especially on her little lips.  I remember the feeling of my heart being ripped out of my chest as they carried her away.  I know Carmen was protecting us, we did not need to see behind that door.  I remember Whit throwing his hands up at the sky and crying out to God and me just holding him and crying also.  It seemed like we were there for hours.  I remember going to collect her things and getting hugs from the staff.  They were telling us they would never forget Polly and that she had changed their lives.  I remember what it felt like to walk out of the NICU for the last time, but not with our child in our arms.  Then I remember the numbness setting in.  I remember crying all over the items we had been able to bring back with us that night, and holding each other.  I remember smelling her sweet scent on the only onesie that hadn't been washed yet and then waking up and the scent was gone.  I remember the emptiness.  We went to the annual memorial at the hospital that happened to be the next day.  Many of Polly's nurses came to pay their respects.  I remember the surreal moments of being in that room with other families who had lost children.  We were a part of this terrible club that no parent wants or ever imagines they will be in.

I remember what life was like before loss.  Before grief was an ever prominent part of our lives.  I remember the hope of having children and the feelings of joy as we waited for our first.  I remember the day I found out we would be parents, Jan 25th will be 3 years.  I remember the hopeless feeling of loss and then joy and tears of finding out we would be parents again.  I remember Feb. 19th and the relief I felt when I heard a screaming baby, even before the doctors announced she was here.  I remember worrying I could never love another, but discovering God gives special places in your heart for all of your children.  Although we hurt deeply ever day still, we also have hope and joy through the blessings God continues to give us.  I am proud of who I've become and how my sweet girls have changed my life.  I would not replace being their mother for anything.

I remember, I don't ever want to forget.